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Texas Fans Should Temper Expectations Around Steve Sarkisian

Brian Giuffra
Steve Sarkisian.
Steve Sarkisian. / Joe Robbins/Getty Images
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It was easy for Texas fans to get caught up in the moment watching Alabama dismantle Ohio State in the National Championship game last night. It's also understandable. After over a decade of futility, at least based on the high standards of Longhorn fans, the idea that Crimson Tide offensive coordinator and soon-to-be Texas head coach Steve Sarkisian is bringing Alabama's high-flying, impossible-to-stop offensive attack to Austin next year surely had Longhorn fans dreaming of what might be.

But while Sark undoubtedly proved to be an offensive innovator while helping lead Alabama to the title this year, Longhorn fans can't expect that style to translate to Texas immediately. Instead, patience will be needed as their new coach builds the program from the ground up for the third time since 2014.

While Texas has had three straight top-10 recruiting classes since 2018 under Tom Herman,Najee Harris, DeVonta Smith and Alabama's dominant offensive line aren't making the trip to Austin with Sarkisian. Nor is Nick Saban. Give a lot of credit to Sarkisian for his offensive ingenuity this year, but he was also working with multiple first-round draft picks and under the greatest college coach of all time. Expecting him to take what he did at Alabama and bring it to Texas immediately isn't realistic. In fact, he faces an uphill climb based on his background.

During his six and a half years as the head coach at Washington and then USC, he had only two top-10 recruiting classes and signed only five five-star recruits. In fairness to him, USC had the No. 2 recruiting class in the country with four of those five-star players in his final season there, which bodes well for what he can accomplish in a recruiting hotbed like Texas. But USC also went 3-2 with him as head coach that year before his ignominious departure amidst a messy divorce and reports of alcohol and painkiller abuse.

Sarkisian has done a lot to put that dark cloud behind him. After USC, he was an offensive assistant at Alabama and then the interim offensive coordinator. He spent a year in the NFL as the Falcons offensive coordinator before returning to Alabama for the role he just wrapped up. Surely he's learned plenty along that road and, hopefully for his sake, has better support systems in place to avoid the potholes that derailed his fast-track head coaching career previously. But this will be a re-learning experience at a school with high expectations and a recent history of short leashes with head coaches who don't deliver big within four years.

Perhaps Sarkisian can accomplish more than Herman or Charlie Strong as soon as he touches down in Austin. Maybe he can take what's left of those strong recruiting classes Herman secured and build a winner from Day 1. But it won't resemble what we saw out of Alabama last night and likely never will be. Setting that expectation is simply setting Sarkisian up for failure.

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